Sunday 4 December 2016

GP who misdiagnosed potentially fatal inflammation of new mum's uterus found guilty

Liz Farsaci

Published 30/08/2016 | 18:50

Alison and Karl Hickey. Photo: Doug.ie
Alison and Karl Hickey. Photo: Doug.ie
Alison and Karl Hickey
Dr. Saleem Sharif

A GP who failed to recognise that a new mother was suffering from a potentially fatal inflammation of her uterus was found guilty of poor professional performance.

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The disciplinary hearing at the Medical Council in Dublin found that Dr Saleem Sharif, 57, from Ballyphehane, Cork, failed to carry out an examination of Alison Hunter Hickey, or arrange for investigations when Ms Hickey visited him at the GP Now Clinic in Sandyford, Dublin 18 in October 2014, where he was working as a locum GP.

Legal counsel for the Medical Council, Eoghan O’Sullivan, said on Tuesday that Dr Sharif displayed a “very worrying” lack of clinical judgement.

On 6 October 2014, Ms Hickey, 47, gave birth to twin boys, Patrick and Finn, by emergency caesarean section. On 28 October, she became unwell, experiencing flu-like symptoms, shivering, a high temperature and abdominal pain.

Ms Hickey attended the GP Now Clinic in Sandyford, where she explained her symptoms to Dr Sharif. However, Dr Sharif conducted no physical examination, nor did he ordered any tests or take a complete medical history.

“He said it was probably a urinary tract infection, and asked was I allergic to penicillin. I said no. That was it. It was a very short consultation,” Ms Hickey told the inquiry on Monday.

Dr. Saleem Sharif
Dr. Saleem Sharif

“There were very few questions asked. There was very little interaction. When I got back in the car, my sister-in-law actually said, ‘That was very quick’.”

But the following day, Ms Hickey’s symptoms worsened, and she was rushed to the Rotunda hospital. There, Ms Hickey was diagnosed with endometritis, or an inflammation of the uterine lining. If left untreated, endometritis can lead to sepsis and organ failure.

Endometritis is the most likely cause of infection in post-partum women, especially for those who have given birth by caesarean section.

Ms Hickey made a full recovery, and was discharged from hospital on 1 November 2014.

On Tuesday, legal counsel Mr O’Sullivan said: “To jump to that conclusion [of a UTI] in the absence of a history review, the absence of an examination of investigations, displays a very worrying lack of clinical judgement.

“Although it was a brief consultation, Dr Sharif displayed various errors in clinical judgement at each stage.”

Mr O’Sullivan pointed out that Dr Sharif was previously the subject of a disciplinary inquiry, in April 2011. Then, he was found guilty of poor professional performance in relation to a Cork-based patient with a history of cardiac problems, who had collapsed at home in May 2009.

Legal counsel for Dr Sharif, Simon Mills, said that no evidence suggests that Ms Hickey’s condition was worsened by anything that the GP did.

Mr Mills said the 2011 inquiry “actually falls into a quite different category of conduct”.

“There was no question over the quality of the exam carried out in the 2011 inquiry,” he said.

Dr Sharif, who originally trained in Pakistan, currently has his own private practice in Ballyphehane, Co Cork.

On Monday, Dr Sharif, through his legal counsel, admitted that he failed to take an adequate medical history, failed to carry out any appropriate examination and failed to arrange for initial relevant investigations when Ms Hickey visited him. He also admitted that he failed to arrange for a follow-up appointment with her.

Sanctions against Dr Sharif will be decided upon at a later date.

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